|Escape the heat at the pool. photography courtesy of Al M Aha|
WHY NOW: Dubai is one of seven United Arab Emirates, although it hardly feels like the Middle East. This very Western-influenced city is bustling with people from all over the world who have come to this boomtown to do business. (Approximately 75 percent of the population is expat.) Ditch the cold winter temps in Dallas. This modern city in the desert awaits.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH: In Dubai, everything is described using some sort of superlative. The tallest skyscraper! The largest indoor ski dome! The most cranes in the world! Well, here’s another: the most serene, luxurious conservation resort. Just 45 minutes outside the city center, Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa seamlessly blends luxury tourism and responsible conservation. Thanks to the efforts of Emirates, the airline that built this property, the desert oryx for which the resort is named (“al maha” is the Arabic name for this beautiful horned creature) has rebounded in population. The animals roam the property freely, often nibbling on the grass outside your suite or drinking water in the distance as you smoke shisha on the bar patio. Everybody wins in this scenario. The desert is preserved, the animal populations have been restored, and revenues from the resort support the conversation efforts.
DESERT NIGHTS: Nowhere else in the area will you experience the desert in its natural state—you can’t stop progress, baby—but you’ll do so amid absolute splendor. Thirty-seven suites were built to resemble a Bedouin tent, but the accommodations are far from primitive. Handcrafted furniture, antiques, and artifacts adorn the room, and state-of-the-art amenities such as satellite TV make you forget you’re in a remote area of the desert. Well, almost. Lounge by your private, temperature-controlled plunge pool, and you’ll remember just how far away from it all you are, as you look out upon rolling hills of sand dotted only by other “tents,” the occasional shrub, and a shy gazelle or two. ARABIAN NIGHTS: An afternoon horseback ride or camel trek is an unforgettable way to experience the desert. If you prefer animals of the feathered variety, learn about the many species of falcon and watch them as they soar. Or test your skills during an archery lesson. After a day in the great outdoors, unwind with a spa treatment using products made of Arabic dates and frankincense. Dine in Al Diwaan for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean delights. Or design your own menu and enjoy it at your suite, under the spectacular stars dotting the desert sky.
|Buy spices in the souks at the annual Shopping Festival.
photography by Jennifer Chininis
Dallasites know a thing or two about retail therapy, and in Dubai you can get the world’s best luxury brands, plus textiles, food and spices, antiques, electronics, and gold in the renowned souks, or street markets. Think of Dubai as the world’s biggest duty-free store. With so much stuff to buy, it’s no surprise that the biggest event of the year is the Dubai Shopping Festival (www.dubaishoppingfestival.com) in January and February. What began in 1996 as a way to revitalize the trade industry has become a full-blown entertainment extravaganza, with street performers, nightly fireworks, and film festivals. Dubai has a ridiculous number of shopping malls, but the souks are where you can truly experience the sights, sounds, and flavors of the world—and bartering is expected.
During this time, hotels and airlines offer discounts. However, if you can’t find a room at the Burj Al Arab—the famous “seven-star” hotel that juts out like a billowing sail on the Dubai coastline—dine at the hotel’s Al Muntaha restaurant or grab a drink at Skyview Bar for unrivaled views of the famous World and Palm islands.